We've read a lot of reports about the opposition of some Thais to the Falungong meeting for reasons of national security and Buddhism.
I am suspicious of what national security really means. I also find Thais calling Falungong an evil sect, a term used by the Chinese government, without anyone in authority in Thailand ruling that this is the case.
We are Thais and we are in Thailand. These people must remember that their loyalty must be to here and not China, no matter what their background.
They also must understand that doing business with China or investing in China is a good thing, but they should never do anything to hurt this country's long-term interests just to protect their own interests.
As for Buddhism, I think it would be better to leave this to senior monks and religious experts. They should have the final say on whether Falungong's teachings are wrong and, if so, how they are wrong. This concerns religion. It should not be used as an excuse to protect certain people's business.
The Falungong issue might be converted into something threatening national security; but this should not involve Falungong itself but the way we handle it, especially the consequences of tolerating selfish and near-sighted but wealthy and influential people.
Thailand is a democratic country. We do not want to interfere in anyone else's domestic affairs. But at the same time, we also need to mention that others should not interfere in Thailand. Only we have the right to decide our affairs.
Is self-immolation a religious act?
I disagree strongly with the writer in support of Falungong (Postbag, Feb 23) and believe Thailand has made the correct choice in banning this dangerous "cult" here.
I say "cult" because Falungong is not a religion. When members kill themselves by setting themselves on fire, this is not a religion.
Yes, members individually made a choice to set themselves on fire, but I would disagree with you in that the other members never persuaded them to stop. In a way, Falungong is promoting self-sacrifice.
I have never heard of any religion that promotes killing oneself, but I have heard of many mass suicides around the world associated with cults. Sweden, France and America have all seen cult members kill themselves. For what? A belief? A way of life?
No life is worth giving up.
Falungong destroys the ability of individuals to think for themselves. It takes advantage of those who are looking desperately for guidance and hope. I praise China's government for banning this cult around the world.
Don't compare China's policy on religious sects with that of Japan. There are more people who are in a desperate and vulnerable position living in China than in Japan. If this cult is not controlled, China may have a problem of revolt. Japan does not.
It's basic freedoms which are at risk
I live in the United States and have been following the Falungong situation in Thailand with great interest. I agree wholeheartedly with the editorial of Feb 23 and wanted to add a couple of points.
When you compare the behaviour of China and the Falungong group, it is clear that the oppressive rule in Tibet and the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989 (to name just two examples) are far more deserving of the pejorative term "evil" than the actions of a group of people who want to practise a hybrid form of meditation.
It is also clear, as Pastor Martin Niemoller pointed out a long time ago, that Thailand bowing to China's whims will simply lead to a slippery slope where any expression of speech can be threatened:
"First they came for the Jews. But I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communists. But I didn't speak up because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. But I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics. But I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me. And by that time no one was left to speak up."
At issue here isn't whether one likes what Falungong has to say but that no one is safe when free speech and expression is not permitted based on blind ideological grounds. It is a path that any freedom-loving individual should avoid at all costs.